The Sweet Sounds of Spider Silk

A researcher spins spider silk into violin strings.

Mar 7, 2012
Megan Scudellari

STEVE SNODGRASS, FLICKR

It’s Mozart meets Peter Parker. In a surprising new application, a Japanese researcher uses thousands of strands of spider silk to weave strings for a violin.

Shigeyoshi Osaki of Nara Medical University in Japan obtained “dragline” silk, the silk from which spiders hang, from 300 female Nephila maculata spiders. He then bundled together 3,000 to 5,000 individual strands of the silk, and twisted three of the bundles together, to create strings.

Under an electron microscope, each string appeared to be perfectly round due to the fact that the strands are pressed snugly together, leaving no space between them. That snug fit probably gives the strings their strength—they are stronger than traditional aluminum-coated, nylon-core strings, BBC News reported—as well as their unique tone, said Osaki. The strings make “a soft and profound timbre,” according to a description of the violin, soon to be published in Physical Review Letters.

"The violin strings are a novel practical use for spider silk as a kind of high value-added product, and offer a distinctive type of timbre for both violin players and music lovers worldwide,” Osaki told the BBC.